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Nordic Walking program on Bruny Island

A review by Jenene Oates, physiotherapist on Bruny Island 

In the past 6 months 39 individual Bruny Island residents have had series of lessons and taken the poles for extended home trial.16 residents have then purchased their own poles through the health centre taking advantage of the discount available due to the corporate membership.

Nordic walking is ideally suited to rural communities as it provides:

  • A form of higher cardiovascular workout than walking without the need for equipment, pool or gym
  • Increased confidence with walking on uneven, slippery terrain
  • Novelty factor for people who already have made a daily walk part of their life but are not pushing the challenge enough to get cardiovascular fitness from their walk.
  • A form of exercise that supports arthritic lower limb joints
  • A challenge to fitness for all levels of fitness and all ages


nw_bruny_island_photoOn Bruny Island we have initiated a monthly community walk to encourage people to walk more widely on the island. A lot of people see walking for exercise as an activity that is to be done “out the back door and down the road a bit”. Walking the same track is comfortable however the increase in fitness will plateau unless the individual increases speed, gradient or length of walk on a weekly basis. It can also become a barrier if your driveway is slippery or steep. The community walks are encouraging people to see walking as not just exercise, but a wholistic recreational pursuit, by offering some environmental and cultural interpretation, as well as social connectedness. Many of the walkers would be daunted to attempt the tracks on their own.

Community walks are now booked out in advance with 15-20 people attending each one. We are now beginning to add nutritional education and increased social contact by finishing walks off with a light joint meal. Walkers are assisting in the preparation of the food and enjoying healthy eating options.


Below are some case examples from my experiences walking on Bruny Island:

Mr D has a complicated painful ankle that had a non union fracture many years ago. He also has peripheral neuropathy. He has been unable to walk for more than 400 metres and has put on a lot of weight and lost fitness. His balance is very poor and he doesn’t feel safe to walk on uneven surfaces. He saw the ad for Nordic walking in the Bruny News and came along with a friend to try it out. At his first lesson David walked 1.5 km. He had  a little pain but suprised himself how far he could manage. The walk was on dirt road and unsealed tracks . with a little tuition and right technique David felt safe and walked with very little discomfort. He borrowed some poles for home use

Ms E is a young woman with rheumatoid arthritis. She has both of her hips replaced in the past 12 months. Now her knees are affected. She has been advised to avoid surgery for as long as possible. Her general fitness and strength have dropped significantly as she can no longer go on her daily walks. With Nordic poles she is now able to complete her daily walks , as well as joining her family on longer bush walks

Mrs J has complex medical issues including diabetes, kidney failure, peripheral neuropathy and chronic back pain. She began walking on sticks 6 months ago and now walks the 1.5 km to the local shop and back daily, she has given up smoking and is enjoying and living life again

Mrs M is a late 50 year old woman who lost her husband tragically a couple of year ago. She has had one lung resected , has chronic shortness of breathe. and an anxiety disorder. She did not feel safe to walk outdoors on her own due to the fear of her breathlessness as well as fear of attack from an aggressor. She now regularly Nordic walks with friends, with our monthly walks and walks alone with her poles with confidence that she can regulate her breathe and no fear of strangers

Where to from here:

  • Annual master classes with Patrick, NW Master Trainer with Nordic Academy
  • Monthly community walks now to include a second monthly more strenuous walk to challenge more fit community members
  • Inter regional walks- with ouse and oatlands residents getting involved in Nordic Walking. We have begun some field trips to maintain interest and support other rural communities with an interest in Nordic Walking